Lucita sat in the passenger side seat of her mother’s maroon station wagon staring at the wide front gate of the school that bustled with unknown people, laughing and chatting, blissfully unaware of her. She sat there fearfully in plain blue jeans, a plain black t-shirt (her only plain one unmarred by rock bands and spiders), and a pair of knockoff chuck tailors on her feet.
She sat there, backpack on her lap, hands clutching to it like a life vest. She wanted to be back in her apartment, locked away, hiding from everything and everyone.
“You have to go to the Guidance Office.”
Lucita spun her head, looking at her mother, eyes wide and fearful. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I have to park the car. I’ll be there soon, okay? Just walk on in. You remember where it is, right?”
“Yeah, I remember,” she mumbled, gingerly letting go of her backpack to wipe her sweaty hands against the maroon velvet seating.
She stepped onto the curb and sidestepped a student on a bike who yelled at her to watch out. Flinching, she shut the door behind her, pushing her hair out of her face to better see her surrounding. She had forgone any hair tie, allowing her frizzy hair to fall over her shoulders.
Slipping her bag over her shoulders, she watched her mother’s car inch away into the parking lot behind her as she took her last steps of vacation, entering the yellow, white, and burgundy boundaries that would become her new school. Lucita wanted to pass out, to run away and hide. She was scared of all the people she squeezed by and those looks they were giving her, alerting her to her ambiguity.
Lucita spun around. Blake stood behind her, studying her in a way she didn’t like.
“Oh, um, hey. No, not really.”
“You look different.”
She smiled, her nervousness inching away. “No dress, no makeup, and no high heels.”
He laughed. “That’s it; you’re shorter.”
“Hey, don’t tease my height,” she pouted, keeping a small, timid smile.
Blake stopped laughing, looking down at her. Sometimes even she forgot how short she was at 5’4”. He stopped laughing, keeping his smile.
“Huh, um, well, it’s my first day at a new school, so no, not really.”
“Nothing to worry about; you’ve got me, Becca, and Silvia. We’ll keep you company. So where’s your first class?”
“I don’t know. I have to go to the Guidance office to fill out a few more forms or something.”
“Well, I’ll join you. No reason you should be sitting there alone.”
“My mom’s going to be joining me soon.”
“Well, until then, I’ll keep you company.”
“Okay, thank you.”
Despite his kindness that brought Lucita such a sense of relief, she felt uncomfortable. Blake was cool, but Rebecca liked him, and Lucita got the feeling by the way he continually appraised her that he was only being this nice because he was interested in her. Even though she and Rebecca weren’t quite friends, she already felt obligated to her. But she felt lonely and didn’t want to be alone. So Lucita followed behind through the throng of students to the blue doors of the Guidance Office.
They sat together for a few moments in the hard blue plastic seat that wobbled beneath her above the scuffed-up white tile floor. Blake sat there next to her, telling her about South Broward, and she let him talk, calming herself by going 1, 2, 3, 4 repeatedly in her head while nodding absentmindedly. It wasn’t too soon that her mother entered, the blue door swinging in front of her, strappy heels clicking on the floor, studying Blake cautiously, calling her daughter forward.
Blake left, waving goodbye to her mother, who gave him a stiff smile in her blue and black dress.
Standing by her mother, mute, she watched her sign a few more papers while the people behind the counter gave her notebook after notebook about the school code and conduct and the administration. Muttering quiet thank you’s, she stood there, picking at the skin around her nails with her teeth. She wanted to go home. The fear swam around her head again and again, and Lucita just chastised herself, telling herself to stop whining, that she sounded pathetic. She would not be pathetic anymore.
“Lucita?” Lucita looked up, startled. But, of course, it was her mother’s voice. “I have to go now, have a good first day, okay.” Her mother’s eyes offered a kindness she rarely saw, a gentleness, as they started at her daughter, who was now the same height as her. Yet, despite that, she felt like she was five again, as if she would cry again when her mother left. Lucita could already feel the stinging pressure behind her eyes. But she was fourteen; she wasn’t a child anymore, so crying wasn’t an option.
“Okay.” She kissed her mom goodbye on the cheek and watched her leave, short black hair flying behind her. Hugging her paper-thin notebooks to her chest, she watched two girls approach her with bright, welcoming smiles.
They introduced themselves quickly. They were Clarissa and Amelie, and they were going to show her around. Smiling at each, Lucita shook their hands quickly. Who shook hands, she thought, quickly pulling her arms back across her chest tightly. But they didn’t seem to care and just led the way to the bright blue doors that stuck out against the rest of the school. Time to start, she thought fearfully.
New Girl (Memoirs of the Third Floor #1)
Lucita is starting at a new school. Silvia is keeping a secret. Rebecca is struggling with herself. Three girls and their friends have entered high school, and for each of them, it’s hard enough without having to deal with friends, betrayal, and their insecurities. High School is tough enough without having to be the new girl.